Beware the tale below…it’s kinda like an episode of The Twilight Zone. Proceed at your own risk!
Rabbits have zero to do with welding, I know. But believe it or not, there is actually a connection, at least for us.
The first job Gary had in Gillette was for a welding company that also happened to operate a small sort of farm. I still remember that the welding shop sat next to a yard for the trucks and equipment, and next to that were sheds and buildings dedicated to the animals. There were sheep, horses, ponies, chickens, turkeys and, you guessed it, rabbits. Besides being a welder for the company, Gary also helped raise and look after the rabbits – which were being raised for meat. Yep…I have tasted rabbit, folks. Not too bad, actually.
I never was afraid of rabbits as a young child (unlike chickens…yes, you can laugh, but I had chicken-fear for many years).
Look, I’m a sucker for cuteness just like the rest of my peers. Bunnies are soft and sweet and lay chocolate Cadbury eggs at Easter, right?? But as an adult, I have to admit to a subconscious caution that has, over time, developed into a conscious distrust of bunnies. It probably harkens all the way back to the tender age of 8…
My Dad went to a nearby town to look at buying rabbits, and brought all of us along. We girls were trying to pet the bunnies in the cages and long story short, my baby sister (who was about 3 at the time) got her finger caught in the wiring of one cage and the bunny inside chewed the top of her finger off. Yes, this actually happened. On the way to the hospital, I think we all were wondering how a cute and cuddly rabbit could do such an unthinkable thing. That same sister went on to raise a couple of rabbits for 4-H, so she wasn’t psychologically scarred for life. I also had a pet rabbit as a teen, so I had made my peace with the Leporidae kingdom, at least for a while.
Then when I was a little older, a collection of events involving fictional rabbits shaped how I viewed bunnies. In school I had fallen in love with a book about a vampire bunny. Cute book, but a bunny vampire that drains the “blood” out of carrots and has wicked, glowy eyes? It stays with you. Then a few years later, I watched a James Stewart movie called Harvey. Not a scary movie – really more like Arsenic and Old Lace meets Bugs Bunny. And yet, there was something a little concerning about an invisible 6-foot rabbit that talked. I want to say there was another movie with a giant rabbit, only this one was a scary one. I remember seeing bits and pieces of that movie, too.
And then there was the unforgettable incident just a few years ago…
It was a hot, late summer day and I was heading out to my parent’s house after work. A year or two before this particular summer, our county had had a few close calls with innocent bystanders and rabid skunks. Random skunks showing up is no bueno, but skunks with rabies?? Especially no bueno.
Anyways, as I drove up to the house, I saw a full-grown cottontail rabbit sitting near one of my parent’s vehicles in the driveway. Not unusual, because our area has a bumper crop of cottontails every year. There are always two or three hanging out in my parent’s driveway and yard. We love to see the baby cottontails, which of course are cute as buttons!
But there was something very unusual about this rabbit. It’s head was cocked to one side, like it wasn’t able to hold it’s head up normally. But it seemed calm and just sat there. I moved closer to see what was wrong with it and must have startled it, because it erratically jumped from where it was sitting and began to hop in a frenetic circle in the grass near the driveway. Umm…wow. That made me a little uneasy, so I went into the house and told my Mom about the rabbit.
We both went outside. I was feeling a little nervous, mostly because now I was wondering if this rabbit could have rabies. It hadn’t been foaming at the mouth, but it was circling, so…didn’t rabid animals act erratic and wander around in circles??
The rabbit had moved back over to the driveway again and was sitting quietly just a few inches from a cement pad that had been poured for a future garage. We cautiously stepped onto the pad and made our way over to near where the rabbit was sitting. We somehow felt safer being a couple of inches above the ground on the cement pad…
Why we felt the need to get closer is beyond me, but I think we thought we might be able to help the bunny somehow, or at least see what was wrong with it. Curiosity often overrules fear (or common sense). The bunny seemed calm as we got closer – which is not normal behavior for a cottontail. It was false pretenses, really.
We were now probably a foot or two away from the rabbit. It apparently didn’t see us or sense that we were close to it. Had it been injured? Was it’s neck broken? It wasn’t foaming at the mouth, nor did it have any injuries that we could see (aside from it not holding it’s head up). It looked completely normal otherwise.
While we were pondering what unfortunate circumstance or disease this bunny had succumbed to and what to do for it, I inched a little closer. I was now able to peer out almost directly above the rabbit as it sat there.
As I was looking intently at it, I saw that it’s one eye that was staring straight up at the sky was dilated. Sad. But I then saw it’s eye focus and it stared right at me. “Interesting” I thought.
No sooner had that thought flitted through my brain than the rabbit shot straight up into the air. I do not exaggerate when I say that it jumped as high as my waist. With that, all curiosity was completely cured and both my Mom and I made our way to the house – posthaste. We may or may not have screamed a little. I had never in all my days seen a rabbit – wild or domestic – act like this.
I had images of it biting our ankles with it’s fangs. ‘Cause crazy rabbits have fangs, of course. But I looked back just before going through the door to safety and the rabbit was once again hopping in large circles around the driveway. We called Game and Fish and asked if they could send someone to check things out.
The game warden showed up a little bit later. We were relieved to see him and told him how the rabbit was behaving. He thought it was injured, that rabies was unlikely and he would need to put it down. He found the rabbit down the hill close to the yard fence. It was doing circles there, too. The warden caught it in his net and humanely put it out of its misery.
We were sad that that’s what it came to, but glad that we could walk outside without fear of inciting the Circle Bunny to launch itself into the air and lope around in crazy circles.
Because that’s what we came to call it by the end of the day…the Circle Bunny.
To this day I still eye the cottontails with caution. Sure, they are cute, but I now remember that day that was straight out of the Twilight Zone. It was definitely Hitchcockian.
And I happily keep my distance.